Saturday, December 31, 2016

As the World Turns

It's December 31st. New Year's Eve. A time when I typically stay hunkered down at home with a beer and a book because I'm old and people don't take the dangerous reality of drunk driving as seriously as they should. Occasionally, I'll look back at the past year, reflect on this or that, and look ahead at what's to come. I say occasionally because honestly, without looking back at this blog, I can't even remember if I did that last year. But I will say a few words today on 2016.

Admittedly, there was a lot of rough things happening in 2016. Our global landscape is changing, both physically and politically, and not for the better. A lot of beloved celebrities died, some too soon and others because, well, none of us are immortal. But I can't get behind this negativity surrounding the year itself.

2016 is a numeric designation used for chronicling events both good and bad. The number cannot be blamed for all the bad that has happened. Likewise, we are not going to wake tomorrow to a world magically changed because we've now slipped on a new pair of shoes called 2017.

Initially, I'd planned a post about all of the good things that happened in 2016. Things like the Cubs winning the world series after more than a century and finally getting a Star Wars film that gave me the same kind of emotional rollercoaster ride the original trilogy did in my youth. But there are already posts like this. Tons of them. Really well thought out, thorough, and heartwarming articles are out there and I can't hold a candle to them, so go, read those.

So I'm stuck talking about the only subject I know well: me. Narcissistic much, writer girl? ;)

2016 on a personal level was a mixed bag. I began the year on a mental low, still grieving the loss of our dog, Penny in late 2015. Yes, losing a beloved pet can be just as devastating on one's mental health as losing a loved one. Luckily for us, we still have two healthy and happy pups who helped us through the worst of it. In fact, just recently, we discovered that one of our dogs is younger than we thought, giving us the potential of an extra year with that lovable little furball. If that isn't a silver lining, then I don't know what is.

I'd hoped to have more to talk about on a personal level, but alas, there were some setbacks on that front meaning my lips remain sealed on the everyday ongoings of the McMullen household. Perhaps 2017 will be the year I get to make certain announcements. Mysterious, yes. Sorry 'bout that.

But on the business side, 2016 was an amazing year. Due in part to a couple of well timed promotions, I've more than doubled the number of books I've moved since starting this journey four years before. I can only hope to continue with that kind of luck (yes, luck) in 2017.

Also, despite several issues keeping me from exercising my brain, I managed to push out a new title and get a lot of work ready to go in the near future, including finally finishing the rough draft for the problem-plagued Princess Robot Commander. Work on book two begins immediately and I'm hoping to actually have an announcement about that series this summer. In the meantime, I'll be experimenting with some short stories that stretch the limits of the sci-fi and fantasy genres and spill over into literary fiction and magical realism.

Looking ahead, I don't do New Year resolutions. I can't. I'm bad at them. But what I will do is continue to try and remain positive. I will continue to push my indie publishing agenda. I will continue to neglect the hell out of this blog. And I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that I am in position to assume my role as right hand meat puppet when the robots take over.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Since the Commercials Won't Stop...

Hi folks. You may recall that last year in December, I stopped advertising my books and instead used my social media accounts to promote charitable organizations and positivity. Well, in the wake of recent events and because I'm already being bombarded by tasteless holiday car ads, I've decided to once again do the same and I've decided to start today. I am taking down my pinned tweet for my book and putting up a message of peace. I will do the same for Vlad. Facebook currently has a black box as both my profile picture and header. I do not need to explain why, but once I decide to change it, I will upload something pleasant and not anything business related.

To those who think this is actually a stunt to get you to feel bad and buy my books, I assure you, life doesn't work like that. Last December was my lowest royalty month since 2013 when I didn't have a single completed series. I will continue to post freebie books periodically, but I'll not be doing any advertising until 2017.

Also, I am not asking anyone to join me and I am not looking down my nose at anyone who continues to shout about their own work. You do not have to justify yourself to me. But understand that no advertising means no advertising and this extends to sharing the ads of others on social media. I may retweet a freebie, but I'm not going to share ads from other authors until the holidays have passed.

What I am going to share, is charitable and outreach programs. And for that, I would like your help. I am looking for organizations to showcase that help in the following areas:

LGBTQ+ Rights
Refugee Assistance
Women's Reproductive Rights
Women's Rights in General
Minority Rights
Victims of Hate Crimes
Domestic Violence Outreach
Suicide Prevention
Victims of Sex Trade and Human Trafficking
Victims of Sexual Assault
Organizations that offer counselling and recovery services for trauma survivors.

Feel free to leave your picks in the comments, or on social media. Over the next two months I'll post links as well as messages of positivity that I find as I go along.

I won't, however, start posting any snowmen, jingle bells, Santas, or otherwise festive business until after both Thanksgiving and my birthday. Just because the dollar store thinks carols are appropriate while the Texas temperatures are in the eighties, doesn't mean I do. Pumpkin pie deserves its day in the sun, dammit!

Monday, October 24, 2016

It's Here! Pumpkins! Candy Corn! Free & Discounted Books!

It's that time again! 

I know! I can hardly believe it myself!

SupportIndieAuthors is once again having a spooky Halloween party and this one is even bigger and better than last year. 

The event begins on Friday, October 28th and runs through Monday, October 31st (that's Halloween!!!)

Friday, September 30, 2016

Owning It

As I've discussed in previous posts, I have a little issue I like to call summer brain. This year has been particularly difficult in that I ended up scrapping two projects because my brain didn't want to attempt to make sense of them while the rest of me was melting under the Texas sun. I even made a post here, talking about my last attempt to write something that would steer me back in the direction of serious author and well, about two dys after I wrote that blog, I had a flash of inspiration.

Two months later, I have a book. And like the last six items I've written, it may be of the sci-fi/fantasy variety, but it is firmly planted in the humor category as well. Specifically, satire.

Shameless Cover Plug

Naturally, as I started writing what I had hoped was a one off summer brain tale of a second banana to a supervillain, ideas began to pop into my head for a second and third book, with the possibility of many more to come. This... this would not do. I'm an author, not a humorist!

I am  humorist. And apparently, kind of a rarity in the field. While  I want to be taken seriously, I realize that continuing to satirize the genres I so love doesn't just come easy to me, but is something I should be proud of. You see, there aren't many women in this field.

Sure, there are female humorists. But you've probably heard of the ones who came from a standup or television career, or the anecdotal humorists like Erma Bombeck who wrote slice of life humor. And now, there are more and more quirky paranormal and mystery writers who add a touch of humor to their writing.

But the big names in satirical fantasy and sci-fi circles are Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Robert Asprin. Of course, those guys were the big names. You know me, so you know I'm a reader of Indie books. There are tons of wonderful bits of genre satire out there written by some great guys. But I have to point out the scarcity of women's names in these lists. This has to change.

I can't possibly be the only woman writing genre satire. There must be others and if there are, I want to hear about them. This can't be allowed to be a boy's club the way sci-fi was for so long and dammit, I am way too small time to be a pioneer!

So please, if you've heard of any fantastic and funny women who write satirical, dark, or quirky humorous literature in the sci-fi, fantasy, speculative, dystopian, or horror genres, please, comment with their name so that I may check them out.

Now, I will admit, once I have A Shot at the Big Time released in October, I will be using the dreary winter months to put myself back in the mood for sci-fi thrillers and space adventures, but I am owning my role as a genre humorist. Expect me to bring the funny whenever I can.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Crazy Sale!

I've got things to say. At some point, I promise, I will use this blog to sound off about something insightful. In fact, I've been meaning to post something here about owning up to the type of author I am, but alas,today is not that day. Today, I am announcing a sale:

Are you ready for this?

For three days, starting on Friday, September 16th, I will be offering the Kindle edition box set of my romantic sci-fi action and adventure series, The Eyes of The Sun at the crazy low price of 99¢.

This deal will be a Kindle Countdown sale, which means it is only valid in the US and UK markets.

Following the three day sale, the price will go up to $2.99 and then $4.99 before reverting back to the regular price of $6.99
(The UK price will only go up once to £2.99 before reverting to regular price).

Visit:  to grab your copy!

This is not a sale I plan to hold very often, if ever again,so take advantage while you can! 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Write On! Our 15 Minutes Spotlight: Riley and Sara Westbrook

So I've decided to add this new segment to the Write On! series called Our 15 Minute Spotlight. I shouldn't have to tell you that I'm speaking of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame and not the fact that fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance, but apparently, I just did.

This segment is reserved for authors who I've personally read, loved, and noticed were for one reason or another, not getting the spotlight they rightfully deserved, so I butted my big nose into their business and decided to see how I could help out. Which brings us to our first author couple: Riley and Sara Westbrook. The Westbrooks have written in a variety of genres through the (now defunct) Big World Network publisher, but as of right now, only have one complete series on Amazon in Kindle ebook format.

The series is called "Breath of the Titans" and is epic fantasy, sometimes known as high fantasy, but in the case of this particular story, high may refer to the mental state of some of the characters. This is the type of hero's journey, epic quest, save the world story that is common to fantasy, but at the same time, it's quite different. Case in point: I loved it and I'm not a fan of the genre.

In fact, I loved it so much, that after a friend noted the covers were a little hard to read, I offered to assist in a redesign to see if it would help get more eyes on the books.

Today, we're putting this theory to the test. On this day, Friday the 5th of August 2016, the first book in the series, Little Black Stormcloud, is free on Amazon. My hope is that through the redesigned covers, a semi-aggressive marketing campaign, and word of mouth via this blog and many others, this book will get many downloads by many people who may not have found it otherwise. It is also my hope that these same readers enjoy the book enough to read the rest of the series.
I admit, I do get a kick out of making these box sets. Don't they look nice?

Now, I would also like to note that in addition to being a fantastic author, Riley is an amazing person as well. I can't say that I've ever met anyone who is as friendly, compassionate, and nonjudgmental, especially given the ups and downs life has put him through. So please, if you haven't already done so, go grab this free book, and then read on to find out Riley's views on writing fantasy. And as always, thank you for continuing to #SupportIndieAuthors.

Writing Epic Fantasy

by Riley Amos Westbrook
Have you ever tried to write an epic fantasy? I have, and I loved every minute of it. There's a lot of work and planning that go into building your world. Should I include a prophecy or shouldn’t I? Should I build an intricate magic school or shouldn't I? How much of my plans do I reveal to my readers?

I'm not your typical epic fantasy author. I don't use overly colorful language, though there are some curse words in my books. I tell it as I see it, knowing the story will carry itself in the end. There’s a hint of love that could blossom, but hasn't, and there’s no sex, for those bothered by it. A group of friends and family that only want to help:

There's Nord, an elf who is too pretty for his own good.
Sanche, a stern elven general looking to fade into obscurity.
Missy and her fairy friends try to keep everyone on task.
Tyrosh is a dragon unable to shift forms and held prisoner by the false Titanbringer, Martell.
Jaxon is the halfling friend of everyone, only along for the ride.
Martell is the man who stole Tyrosh's mantle.
And Lovonian is the one out for revenge, while seeking to bring balance to the world.

I wrote the books to learn to write, and I'm glad I chose the genre I did. Writing the story of Lovonian felt like telling people about a movie only I could see. I can still see the scenes clear as day if I close my eyes. It’s almost like magic. If only it was as simple translating the images to words.
There’s a ton of planning that goes into writing an epic fantasy, but I really did none of that for Breath of the Titans. I only sought to write a story I would enjoy reading as time passed. So far, that holds true.

Now I’ve written several different genres, from contemporary fiction filled with zombies and other monsters, to a science fiction adventure filled with a myriad of races. In both cases, it was much easier to start the world building process. It could be experience, but I think it’s genre.

In my horror stories, it’s much easier to get started because they are set in a world like this one. I don’t have to plan a religion, politics, or anything that I know the reader already knows. Whereas in a fantasy book, all of those things need to be taken into account. I can’t assume you know the religions of the world, because I am building it from the ground up. I can’t assume you know how the king will react, as he rules a land only in my head.

But in a contemporary environment, I can mention the president, and you can imagine how they could react. Same with religion, if I say Christianity you automatically know what I mean. That’s not to say that horror can’t have the same planning and storylines that go into an epic fantasy, just that if the author chooses they can be a bit lazier about the entire process.

Science Fiction is a bit closer to epic fantasy, as far as world building goes. I cannot rely on the reader’s knowledge to fill in the blanks on the same issues. But I can include modern gadgets and whizzbingers. I can say, “They carried a communicator in their hands.” and you can picture an image of what I’m talking about. You may even understand on a basic level how the contraption might work.

Harder to do that in a fantasy world. Harder to explain that the titans are robots made by magic. Or how a magician uses his mind to shape the very fabric of the world. These are concepts that, while not difficult to understand, are much harder to put into words. It’s much harder to convey exactly what propels them, versus in science fiction where I can point to the gears, nuts, and bolts and say, “That’s what makes it tick.”

Having written several genres now, I can officially say that they’re all equally difficult. The thought and planning that goes into any book is monumental. It just seems to me, that epic fantasy takes that little bit more planning. As it is, I'm amazed at how quickly my books came together. I learned a lot from the experience about pacing and telling the story you want to tell.

The great thing about an epic fantasy, or really any work, is you can put your ideals into it. Take Breath of the Titans, I wanted to write something that reflected all of the many religions I’ve tried to study in my life. I wrote the series with an approach to life that a new age spiritual person might use. I meditated and sat in the sun, thinking positive thoughts and listening to the world around me. Then I would go inside and sit in front of my computer, and the story would literally pour from my head onto the page. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t really plan all that far ahead. I had my characters and their limitations. With those in mind, the story seemed to build itself from the ground up. There’s a bit of foreshadowing in the book, though I freely admit most of it was accidental. It’s amazing what our minds can do when we sit and put them to work.

Everyone Dies At The End and Journey From Atremes have a little bit different process, but the premise is still the same. I go and I think. I work my brain muscle until it hurts, and then I work it some more.Keeping the voices of the characters different was simple, though I admit the dialogue is probably a bit more contemporary than in most fantasy novels.

I know this is going to sound a bit like schizophrenia, but when a character speaks to me, I hear their voice. The inflection, the way they carry themselves. I see it all in a million little images, shapes, and feelings. The problem I have comes from translating the sights and sounds in my mind onto the page for someone else to understand.

I tend to write in Rilenese, which means I need a lot of translation from what I originally put down upon the page to the finished story. People, places, names, anything can and will change during the process. Breath of the Titans never suffered from that problem. Once I started writing it, I had all my characters already pre-planned. Those characters are what compelled me to write the story. Having to choose between having them bug me or putting their words upon the page.

Even though I went into everyday with no idea what I wanted to write, I never had a problem getting words onto the page. I didn’t struggle to find things and events to add to the book. If anything, I struggled with finding places to fit their adventures into the novel. There are a thousand things I never mention in the books, because if I did the trilogy would be 1,000 pages long, and I didn’t want to write that.

I wanted to write a fun little adventure, full of excitement and imagination at every turn. I think I did that. Feel free to let me know your opinion.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gab Session

There's a bit of advice I've seen splashed around the internet that says: if you want to accomplish your goals, don't talk about them. By talking about your goals, supposedly, you get a false sense of accomplishment and never really do anything.

I'm not a fan of taking advice from random internet sources, or anyone really, so if you don't mind, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about my current project. You see, I mentioned it last year, but I suffer from a made up syndrome called Summer Brain. When the mercury rises above 90° F, my ability to think creatively goes away. The problem with this, however, is that I try to fight it tooth and nail.

You see, despite trying to project this image of a free spirit with no timetables or boss to report to, I have been chugging along on a pretty strict schedule for a while now. You probably didn't notice, but since November, I have published something every 90 days. There's a reason for this. It keeps my silly little name on the new release list. In fact, that's the whole reason I waited until May 29th to release the Discordant box set. I also wanted to buy myself some time for my next release, since I'm starting fresh, having just completed that series. My next release is supposed to be August 29th.

I can tell you right now, that is not going to happen.

What I'd hoped to have was book one of an eventual space opera trilogy. Yes, this was the project I've been semi-jokingly calling Princess Robot Commander. I've got the bones, but the meat isn't there. I wrote a grand total of 65, 000 words, fifteen chapters, before I realized I had no idea what this dreck and drivel falling out of my brain even was. And before you say, but that's just the first draft, I'll have you know that that's not how I write. Plotholes I can fill, typos I can fix (mostly) but a meandering plot that has no real direction isn't fixable. That's a start over scenario and quite frankly, I'm tired of messing with it. I think this one will be my next Eyes, which means look for it sometime around 2022.

But I'm not just sitting here doing nothing. I have another book in the works, at least I'd like to have. Summer brain is holding me back, so I was hoping that maybe telling you all a little about it might help me focus. Well, sort of. You see, I don't want to give too much away. Earlier in the week, I posted a couple of clues to my Facebook page: the working title (Twigs) and the main character's birthday (May 16th). I've asked that anyone who thinks they know what this means to send me a message privately as not to spoil the surprise for everyone else.

So what can I tell you? Well, this one is a standalone young adult sci-fi thriller. Sound familiar? Yes, I figured it was time to add a little cohesion to my bibliography. This book will be meant to bridge the gap between fans of Kind of Like Life and The Eyes of The Sun. This as of yet unnamed book will follow Annabelle Swenson, an eighteen year old from Piper's Bend, WA (a fictional town readers of Kind of Like Life might recognize) who is attending her freshman year of college on the other side of the country thanks to a scholarship to Ravencrest University, a school hidden deep in the mountains of upstate New York.

What follows is the usual college woes, but also mystery, intrigue, mistaken identity, murder, and lots of carbohydrates. Annabelle and her gang of friends, some old, some new, some trustworthy, some not, find themselves playing amateur sleuth when it's revealed that their lives may be in danger. Why? Well... Let's just say Ravencrest is a top ranked school of science and for more, look to the clues above.

Sound interesting? I'm hoping to finally win my war on summer brain and publish this tale, a standalone with the potential for more in-universe works, some time this fall, hopefully in time to do a debut promo for the fall SIAFBB event. I've got an outline, several scenes already written out, and what I'm hoping is a strong opening where I shall once again lift my middle finger to the fiction police and have Annabelle awaken in the first sentence of chapter one. When I have more, I will surely post about it here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

#SIAFBB Presents: Hash's Bash 2.0! A 4 Day Weekend of Free & Bargain Books!

Image Credit: Steven Verdile
Hi Everyone! 
It's almost time for America's birthday! Last year, in celebration of all things boozy, 'splody, and book related, a ragtag group of indie authors, led by the courageous Mr. Charles Hash, got together and offered a bunch of books for free. Well, one year later, that ragtag group of twelve authors has grown into an unruly mob of nearly fifty authors! That's right, it's time for 
Image Credit: C.B. Archer

This year, we're pulling out all the stops. The event will run from July 1st through the 4th and we'll have nearly 100 free and discounted books!
Image Credit: Marie Silk

As has become a tradition, in the week leading up to the event, we like to give our potential readers a chance to get to know all of our participating authors. While the group has outgrown the interviews this time around, we have dedicated a section of the event website to author biographies and social media links, so please, do take a moment to check out and follow these fantastic indie authors!

Image Credit Virginia McClain

Since we've got four whole days to work with, we have a lot to offer. More than fifty titles will be free. Each day, the free book offerings will change, so don't forget to come back! Do not miss out on any of the freebies! In addition, we've got over thirty books priced at just 99¢ AND if that wasn't enough, we've got box sets of whole series and author collections as low as $2.99!

Image Credit: Charles Hash

So mark your calendars and bookmark 
Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity to not only load up your summer reading, but also to know that by downloading these books, you are doing your part to help #SupportIndieAuthors! 

Image Credit: Marie Silk

Friday, June 10, 2016

Write On! Indie Author Spotlight: Missy Sheldrake

Hi Folks! Today I'm handing over the blog to Missy Sheldrake, author, artist, sculptor, and Support Indie Authors moderator. The third book in her series, Keepers of the Wellsprings, is out today and as such, she is having a huge weekend sale on the first and second book. Buy links are added below, but first, here's Missy to tell you about her series:

The Keepers of the Wellsprings Series

I’m excited to announce that the third book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, Call of Brindelier, is now available on Amazon! If you haven’t read the previous books yet, read on for a super-quick crash course.

When I started writing this series, I really wanted to tell a story that was rich with fantasy, but not overly dark or mired with war and violence. I wanted to show the light side of fantasy: the cheerful, magical, uplifting side which I always drink up whenever it emerges in a story, and which always seems to be so fleeting in fantasy tales. I wanted to tell a story that would capture the hearts of young and old alike. Don’t get me wrong, my books aren’t void of conflict and evil. They tell of uncomfortable moments. There is violence and wickedness, but it’s those moments in my stories which are the fleeting ones. In the pages of my books, you will find fairies, Mages, Paladins, Elves, Dreamwalkers, Princes and Princesses, and even dragons. You’ll travel through a world rich with magic and wonder.

In Call of Kythshire, you’ll learn all about Cerion, a seaside kingdom which has celebrated peace for over a century. You’ll meet His Majesty’s Elite, a guild that is the right hand adventuring team of King Tirnon Plethore, and you’ll join Azi Hammerfel, a young squire who has grown up within the guild’s halls, through disappointments and triumphs. By her side is Rian, her childhood friend, an Apprentice of the Mage Academy. You’ll meet Flit, a fairy from Kythshire, who is as tricky as any fairy you might imagine, but has a depth of character and a sense of purpose uncommon for a typical fairy. You’ll see her world unfold, and feel the evil threat of Sorcery that looms, waiting to destroy it. You’ll learn a little about the Wellsprings, but not too much, for their existence and workings are a well-protected secret. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Kythshire.)

In Call of Sunteri, you’ll meet the strong-willed slave boy, Tib, who makes his first appearance as he escapes from the grips of Sorcery in the desert continent of Sunteri. He has help crossing the vast oceans to reach Cerion, but he doesn’t realize it at first. A mysterious being speaks to his mind, controlling his thoughts and making suggestions to ensure his own survival. In the meantime, Azi has been given the task of escorting the Prince of Cerion and his wife-with-child to the lakeside Kordelya Castle as the prince faces suspicion and ridicule after the events of Call of Kythshire. But a darker force emerges from the Dreaming, whose wicked intent is to use any means necessary to escape its prison and claim the magic of the Wellsprings for his own. In this book, you’ll see the devastating effects of the overuse of magic, and what it does to the Wellsprings and the creatures who thrive around them. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Sunteri.)

In Call of Brindelier, a dark force looms, more powerful and destructive than any threat Azi and her guild have yet faced. You’ll follow Celli, a scrappy street fighter, as she is enticed into the grips of a powerful Sorcerer. You’ll watch Tib come into his own as he sneaks through the streets of Cerion, uncovering the darkness while also working on a mysterious project. You’ll follow Azi on a quest set by Princess Margary to find proof of Brindelier, a city in the clouds which is the key to all of the Wellsprings in the Known Lands. But Margy is not the only one interested in Brindelier. A dark force has been gathering, poised to claim it for their own. Control over the Wellsprings hangs in the balance. (Click here to read an excerpt from Call of Brindelier.)

This series is appropriate for all ages, but I recommend 13 and up due to some violent themes. There is no sex, swearing, or excessively graphic violence in the Keepers of the Wellsprings. Throughout the series, you’ll encounter daring sword fights, violent magical moments, and a few quick deaths.

Call of Brindelier, the third book in the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, is now available on Amazon.  This weekend, I’m offering book one of the series, Call of Kythshire, for free, and book two, Call of Sunteri, for just 99 cents. Click here to download your ebooks while they’re on sale!

Call of Brindelier Excerpts

“What is it exactly,” I pause and think hard, making every word count, “you really need me to do in regards to this rare purpose, which is so important you’d whisk me here against my will in the midst of a battle that could very well mean the end of peace in my kingdom and possibly the deaths of people I’m sworn to protect?”
“Whoa,” her eyes go wide as I come to a stop right in front of her. “That was brilliant. Really brilliant. Excellent question. See, you just had to focus, that’s all.”
“Flitt.” I press my hand to my brow. My head is starting to ache from frustration.
“Don’t hate me. I can’t answer it,” she says with a cute little shrug and an impish smile.
“What?” I can’t help it. I lunge at her. She’s too fast, though. She pushes off from the grass and flies up out of my reach. “So help me!” I shout up at her. “You’d better stay up there, I swear!” I glare up at her and then realize her mistake in putting distance between us. Instantly I think of Rian. I start to feel the shimmer around me and then she dives into me, pinning me to the ground.
“Don’t,” she pleads as she straddles my chest. She’s surprisingly heavy for a fairy. “I was just playing. Don’t go. I can’t answer it, but I can show you something else.”
“Get,” I shove at her, “off!”
“Uh uh,” she shakes her head. “You have to promise to stay. It’s important, Azi. Really important. World changing important. Things are happening that never should happen. Bad things. Wicked things. Worse than Sorcerers. Worse than Jacek. Really bad.” She leans over me with her hands on my shoulders and her rainbow-colored ponytails spill forward, tickling my face. “Really, really bad. Please. Do you promise?”
“Worse than Jacek?” I look up at her.
“You can’t answer a question with a—” she stops herself at my death glare. “Worse than Jacek,” she whispers. Her eyes sparkle with tears and change from blue to red to silver. This close I can see she has no pupils, just orbs of ever-changing light that shimmers softly and unpredictably. I’ve never seen them so clearly, never been so drawn to them.
“I promise,” I say, tempted by the familiar tingle of magic rising inside me. I want to see what she’s seen; I want to know what’s in a fairy’s mind.

I want to be annoyed by the magic. I want to hate the excess of it. There’s no reason for it except to show off. I can’t help but admit it, though. It’s kind of impressive.
When we reach the tower, the stone wall shifts and opens magically. Of course there aren’t any doors. Why would there be? Rian brushes his fingers along the stone as we go in. He’s really impressed. I bet he’s going to write it all down when this is over. Make a book of it for their ridiculous libraries.
Inside the tower, it’s dry and warm. The walls are adorned with colorful silks and tapestries. The circular entry is larger than I expected. It’s a little confusing. The energy is bright and overwhelming. It’s embedded in the stone. It pulses in the air. Power. Might. Majesty. Protection. Knowledge.
Otherwise, the place is dusty and full of cobwebs. Shelves and shelves of moldy books line the walls behind the coverings. Books and tubes and glass vials and stacked clay pots teeter and lean against each other. I sniff. Sea air. Must. Incense. Behind Rian, Shush blows out a wisp of fresh air that sends the white smoke swirling away.
“Master’s downstairs,” Loren says. His voice echoes up into the rafters and a passage opens up across the entryway. It glows with a merry orange light to welcome us.
The stairway down is lined with glass walls as thick as my arm. Loren takes this for granted. He jogs off down the steps without a glance, but Rian and I can’t help but stop and stare. Through the glass, a world stretches out before us. The depths of the ocean. The surf plunges above, bubbling and churning.
Waves scoop up the sandy seaweed bottom and push it down again. It’s like a field. A drifting, rhythmic meadow. Colorful fish swim past in schools of red, orange, and yellow. Creatures like I’ve never seen cling to bright pink and green stones. They wave long tendrils with the motion of the sea. Shells of every color catch the light of the spiral staircase which shines through the glass.
I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s simple. Pure. Beautiful. I had no idea there was a world like this under the ocean. I can’t tear my eyes away. I press my hand to the glass as a dolphin races past us, chasing a group of purple fish with long, flowing fins. It’s not just the sight of it that interests me. It’s the simplicity of it. There’s no magic out there. Not in the sense I’ve known it. It’s perfect all on its own.
I nod my agreement and he smiles at me. I want him to keep smiling. I want to be his favorite. I never want to make him scowl.
“This is Dub,” he says after a long pause. It takes me a moment to realize there’s someone else here. He’s been lurking against the wall all this time. He steps out of the shadows as Quenson introduces him.
He’s in his twenties, maybe, lean and strong, and dressed all in leathers like me, except they’re black. His face is coarse with whiskers, and one eye is covered with a patch. The most remarkable thing about him, though, are all the knives. I can count at least a dozen strapped to his torso, his belt, his arms, and his legs. I wonder how many others he’s concealing.
His one good eye looks me over like Quenson did. Except when he does it, it makes me uncomfortable. I square my shoulders and cross my arms and raise my chin, trying to seem bigger. Tougher. He smirks, but doesn’t say a word.
“Go.” Quenson says.
Before I have time to think, Dub leaps at me, his knives flashing. He swings and I duck and roll away. He throws a blade, and I somersault and narrowly dodge the attack. His knife clatters and skids across the floor. I tumble to grab it and another one of his blades slices my sleeve as it whizzes past. I don’t know why, but this guy is serious. He means to kill me.
With Dub’s knife tight in my grip, I charge him. He’s nearly twice my size but I don’t care. If he wants to kill me, I’m going to make it difficult. He’s ready for my attack though. As I swing to stab him, he sheaths a knife and grabs my arm, twisting it painfully behind my back. He’s strong, but I’m a fighter. I elbow him hard in the ribs and kick him between the legs until he doubles over. That makes him loosen his grip on my arm, so I spin and punch him hard in the face. His nose cracks and he curses.
Quenson’s laughter somewhere to the side of the room is a musical sound that echoes up to the high-domed ceiling and back down again. It reminds me of how much I want to please him. It makes me fight harder.
Dub is furious. I punch his jaw and he growls and grabs my wrist again. With his free hand, he draws another knife from his endless supply. He overpowers me and shoves me against the wall, pressing my hand against the stone. His good eye is dark with madness. He raises the knife. He’s going to drive it through my hand, pin me to the stone with it.
I struggle to break free. I kick and swing and squirm, but he’s too strong. He thrusts the blade forward. I can’t escape him. He’s won. I brace myself for the strike and gasp as his empty fist smashes into my hand.
“Enough,” Quenson says.
Dub growls in frustration and throws my hand down. I open my eyes in disbelief to see the Sorcerer standing several paces away, holding Dub’s knife between his thumb and forefinger with a look of disgust.
“Such rudimentary, primitive things,” Quenson scoffs as Dub retrieves the weapon and shoves it into a sheath at his thigh. He wipes at the blood that trickles from his lip and sneers at me.

About the Author

Missy Sheldrake is an author/illustrator who has been conjuring images of fairies in one form or another since she was very young. The wind in the trees and the rich scent of forest earth are her most treasured sources of inspiration, and on most mornings you will find her wandering the wooded paths, dreaming of the next adventure she hopes to put to the page.
Missy was born in Connecticut and attended Western Connecticut State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Art with a concentration in painting and illustration. Even then, in her free time, she was writing. She moved to Northern Virginia several years ago and lives there now, on the outskirts of Washington D.C., with her true love and their son. She published her first novel, Call of Kythshire, in March of 2015 and intends to keep writing as long as the fairies allow it.

Where to Buy:

Call of Kythshire (Book One):
Call of Sunteri (Book Two):
Call of Brindelier (Book Three):
Snowberry Blossom (Perma-free holiday short story):

Connect with Missy:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

13 Secrets & Easter Eggs Found in My Books (no spoilers!)

Today is Friday the 13th, a day considered unlucky by otherwise rational folks. For some, it's an excuse to stay home, avoid ladders, mirrors, and black cats. For others it's an excuse to watch cheezy horror flicks and wear hockey masks. For twenty-something me, it was an excuse to wear black lipstick, smoke clove cigarettes, and sneer about mainstream music being the devil and death is just so cool, you guys! 


Since we only get one Friday the 13th this year, I decided to honor it by posting a handful of neat little secret jokes and asides I threw into my books. Nothing below should spoil the stories they came from, but they may add insight or a giggle for those of you who might have read them.

13: None of the witches in the Discordant series had names until Bogie shouted "Geez Louise!" As soon as I typed the demon's frustration, I knew my blonde witch with the big hair had to be named Louise. I wasn't kidding when I said these stories write themselves.

12: Speaking of the Discordant series, each book has thirteen chapters. Spooky. Actually, that's not really an Easter Egg. My use of magical numbers is about as subtle as a brick to the head.

11: In the Rock n' Roll mall scene in Going Green, the guitar with the ability to make Jayden Winslow forget about the zombie apocalypse is a vintage Rickenbacker. The reason it's a Ric is because my husband had recently acquired a Rickenbacker and could not stop talking about it. Seriously. If the world was ending that week, he would have been oblivious. Despite this, Jayden was not named so because it sounds like Jason. That was simply my dig at the current naming frenzy of Hayden, Jayden, Aiden, Caden, etc...

10: And speaking of that scene... Dawn of the Dead (the original seventies-tastic version), one of the cheesiest zombie flicks ever made, is the only zombie film I've ever enjoyed. Hence, it is referenced not only in Going Green, but also in Kind of Like Life. 

9: This dog: 
This is Sally, a ten year old puppy who is determined to remain the weirdest, yet most lovable mutt I've ever known. She is the only one of my pets ever to have made a cameo in my books. She appears as a gender swapped version of herself, appropriately named Monster, in Mother of Darkness. She also appears as a highly destructive Discordant in Frack You, the final book in the series. Both roles paint her in a flattering light. 

8: Kind of Like Life plays off of many tropes. The whole point of the story was that I was seeing a very rigid style in young adult tales and naturally, I had to mess with that. Not all of the genre tropes I played with were serious, so while you've got Blake and Renee trying to survive mall zombies, there is also a scene in which they go to a traditional fantasy inn and order stew. Why stew? Because stew is apparently the only food fantasy inns are allowed to serve. 

7: Cheddar Biscuits. There is a scene in Past Life Strife where Louise, a vegetarian, demands Seth take her to Red Lobster for dinner, citing the famous biscuits as to the reason why. This came from a conversation Jason and I once had about how chain restaurants don't have to be good, they just need to have one thing that everyone likes. He then mentioned the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits and I gagged, because eww! Biscuits! Yes, even the dumbest things can be in jokes in my books! 

6: A lot of people have speculated that they know what town I based Blackbird on. It's not as simple as that. First of all, geographically, Blackbird cannot exist. I've placed it in the Midwest, somewhere close enough to both Chicago and St. Louis to have a sports rivalry, but far enough away to be it's own little insular hub. This would put it somewhere around Terre Haute, IN, except that Indianapolis has to not exist. Now, as to the layout, yes, there are some similarities to the small northern city I grew up in, as well as some landmarks and references to some icons of my current Texan hometown. However, there's also a LOT of Scranton, PA thrown in because there's just something about that place that screams paranormal activity. This also contributes to my using Centralia as Seth's hometown.

5: Going Green is an obvious play on words, but despite what you think, giving my zombies green skin was not a cheap attempt at shoehorning the joke. Rather, it was a combination of the fact that the Universal Monster's Frankenstein's monster is green skinned and that one of the search terms that had inadvertently brought someone to my blog was 'green skinned alien ladies.' I kid you not.

4: I may have already talked about Lucy's fear of being underground and how that spectacularly that sucks for her in the Eyes series. Truth be told, it's one of my fears. I hate basements, tunnels, even caves and precariously overhanging rocks. Yet, I'm 100% cool with subterranean train travel. People are weird. 

3: There is an intentional continuity error in the Eyes series. I can't say what it is because that would be spoilers, but it has been pointed out to me on several occasions and despite knowing that my reason for it is taking realism to an extreme, I won't change it. All I'll say is this: People forget details of even significant events all the time, but more often, people lie. Not to deceive, necessarily, but to keep certain truths truly special. There are certain stories I tell only part of.

2: Nai is not me. All of my characters may share some traits with me, that's only natural. However, despite my apparent intolerance of certain limited mindsets, I actually have more in common with the woefully idealistic Jem.

1: The Lou Zephyr building in my Discordant series is an abandoned 13 story building that is thought to be cursed. Lou Zephyr was a banker who was reported to make people pay with their very souls. Saying his name out loud may help you figure out why. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hangin’ Out! Author Interview with Dwayne Fry

Thanks to social media and the growing globalization of every aspect of our lives, it seems that every day, week, and month is designed to honor everything from waffles to presidents. May is no different. May the fourth holds a special place for fans of Star Wars and puns, likewise the eighth of May gets a gritty giggle from fans of Motörhead and puns. But the entire month of May is dedicated to short stories and I can’t think of a medium more deserving of its own month of celebration.

According to the website for the organization that started Short Story Month, we are at the dawn of a new golden era for short storytelling and I agree. As such, I sat down with Dwayne Fry to get inside the mind of a short story master. Dwayne is an indie author with more than thirty short works and collections published in a wide variety of genres ranging from lighthearted comedy to serious literary fiction that tackles tough issues. He is also fellow Vonnegut fan and a super fantastic guy, so read on to see what he has to say!

Christina McMullen: So Dwayne, to get started, it's May and May is short story month. You may as well accept the title of Indie Author Short Story King. Are you comfortable becoming royalty?

Dwayne Fry: Well, I'll have to dust off my throne and clean out the dungeon, but I guess I could do all that. Or force some serf to do it for me. Let the reign begin.

CM: I understand kings wear robes. Wizards also wear robes and I've heard rumors that you are a wizard. Would you like to take us immediately off topic and officially make a statement regarding said rumors? Don't worry, the fact that you are a cannibal is our secret.

DF: I do wear a robe, too. A bathrobe. But, you know, wizards are kind of like magicians and magicians never reveal their secrets. So, I guess by not revealing my secret I'm admitting to being a wizard. Or I could just say the bathrobe is a tribute to Arthur Dent and leave it at that.

CM: Fair enough, we'll stick to the title of King for now. And speaking of Kings, in the introduction to his 2002 short story collection, Everything's Eventual, Stephen King claimed that short stories were an “almost dying” art. He cited that literary magazines and anthologies were on their way out. That was fourteen years ago. Obviously, the internet and ebooks were a huge game changer. What's your take on shorts? You've written so many and in so many genres, clearly you must see value in concise language. Tell us about that.

DF: Well, to be honest, the short story works better for me than the novel, due to my weird work schedule at my better paying job. Also, thanks to Sesame Street and MTV, I have a very short attention span. I have thousands of stories I want to tell. In order to get as many of them out as possible in whatever years I have left of life, I tend to focus more on the shorter ones for now. I like working with the smaller cast and focusing on one or two plots, going for one or two ideas rather than a large collection of ideas. With novels it's a bit harder to balance the numerous plots and subplots, not to mention keeping all the characters and minor details of the story straight.

I love reading short stories, too. I've been studying a lot of them the last couple of years, by Indie authors like Charles Hash, K.B. Goddard and Ray Holloway Jr. as well as traditionally published authors like John Updike and Rudyard Kipling. I carry my copy of Welcome to the Monkey House everywhere these days.
It's not uncommon for people to make predictions like King did and find that it falls flat on its face. We can't really predict what will be popular in literature or any other medium in five, ten years from now. There's way too many variables. Change in the political and social climates of the world change people's reading habits. People today seem to have shorter attention spans and so I think that may be contributing to a new interest in short stories.

The short story is a real challenge to write in some ways. It's like with a circus, if you have this huge tent to work with you can have many acts going on at once. With a short story, you're working in a smaller tent and can only show one act at a time, so you get to chose how you present the characters, the plot, etc. and you don't have the room to work with like you do in a novel.

CM: I love the circus analogy. It's fitting as well because in the circus, you've got a little bit of everything; daredevils, clowns, acrobats, animals, all shiny and primped for the audience, yet if you take a closer look, there's a myriad of complex and sometimes uncomfortable issues below the surface. This seems to be the takeaway for a vast majority of your works as well. 

Most recently, I found myself thinking a lot harder on some deep subjects than I ever thought possible while reading what should be a light comedy. I'm talking, of course, about the fan favorite, Happy Clown Burger. Let's start with the light and move into the deep. First, what on Earth possessed you to write a series of rigidly structured flash fiction around the theme of fast food?

DF: I had purchased a book of flash fiction for my Kindle. There were only five stories in it and when I was finished I sort of shrugged and said, "I could do this. But, I'm going to make it more challenging." And that's where a lot of my writing comes from, myself challenging myself to do something different.

So, I took a very OCD approach and came up with a few rules. Instead of five, I would do one hundred. Instead of them being between x and y words long, I would make them all exactly one thousand words. I would also have them strongly connected by having a recurring cast of characters and one main setting, yet each story would stand on its own. I chose the setting as a work place because there's so much potential for stories in any work place. I narrowed it to fast food because most everyone has either worked in fast food or at least eaten in a fast food restaurant.

I have not gotten my one hundred stories, yet, but I do have sixty-seven published and about ten more that are not published. I am confident I will make it. Originally I thought about doing them all in one book, but then decided to split it into six books with sixteen or seventeen stories each. I'm hoping to have all six volumes out by the end of this year.

CM: And those stories certainly run the gamut of emotions! There's definitely something that everyone can relate to. Do you have a particular favorite set of one thousand words?

DF: I do, in fact. There's one story in Volume Four I called "Men's Room / Ladies' Room". It's pure absurdity but it was so much fun to write.

CM: I have not made it to volume four yet, but I'm looking forward to it!  Fun writing keeps us sane. At least, I'd like to think so. Though I suspect there are plenty of folks who would argue my sanity and yours. Especially if they were to read some of your darker and dare I say weirder works. 

Let's move on to horror for just a moment. Personally, I think horror is one of the better suited genres for short stories, but I've noticed they can get pretty formulaic. Your horror stories are definitely unique. Pretty Eyes is quite interesting because I can't say that I particularly cared much for the main character and yet, the story was better for it. Care to talk about your characters? Give us a little insight into how you can flesh out (pun related to Pretty Eyes intended) such detailed characters without the advantage of novel lengths.

DF: First, I would like to state that sanity is greatly overrated.

For the characters in my horror tales, I try to get into their heads and learn what they are afraid of or what makes them terrifying, depending if I’m looking at the protagonist or the antagonist. I'm glad you mentioned Pretty Eyes. Karl is one of my favorite characters. I can't really fully go into him here without spoiling the story, but it's one character where what he feared and what was fearful about him was fascinating to me -- and it a way ended up being pretty much the same thing. The thing that Karl feared most was himself - or someone like him. I liked Karl, too, in that on the surface he seems like an average Joe, but the more time we spend with him, the more we see something just isn't right about him. And I started seeing things about myself in him, too, which frightened me a little. I'm hoping he has the same effect on the readers.

CM: Very interesting. It's always fascinating to hear about how an author puts some of themselves into their characters. That your characters would show you something about yourself isn't too surprising. Now, speaking as a reader, I find I definitely love a story more when I can relate to it. And with your stories, there are a lot of relatable characters. I'd love to be able to talk about all of them, but we'd be here all night, so I'm going to bring up one of my favorites, which is Old Pops' Last Beer
You subtitle this as a ‘maudlin redneck fairytale’ and I have to say, it is fitting. Again, your characters are nuanced and there's a whole history in just a few words. This book is part of a series of lightly connected stories centered around a small town and of what I've read so far, this might be my favorite group. I understand you're working on a longer work within this microcosm. Can you give us some of the background and inspiration for Noah City?

DF: I lived in a small Iowa town for about two years, from 1986 to 1988. It's a redneck town. I fit in, to a point, being a bit of a redneck myself. But, many in the town were more of the negative type of redneck one hears about. Racist, sexist, drinking all the time and so on. Not everyone there was like that, of course. But, that is the town I use as the model for Noah City.

Not all the Noah City stories are about the rednecks. Lazarus Wept certainly is not. I have three or four other shorts that I will be putting out soon in that series, one features Ample Mabel as the main character. She's only been a minor character up to now, in Old Pops' Last Beer and Austism.

The novel will be called The Arteest and it is the story of a middle-aged man who left Noah City years ago and made a name for himself as an artist in California. He's come back to town on some business. I can't say why right now or it would spoil things, but it is strongly connected to one of the short stories. Several characters from the shorts make appearances in the novel. The Worth family lives right across the road from the artist, so we get to see more of Dallas and Austin from Austism as well as learning more about the rest of their family. Wesley Darin from Bonny Truman plays a big role in the novel as do several other characters from the shorts.
Just to be clear, it is not necessary to read the shorts in order to follow the novel, nor is the novel required reading to understand the shorts. They all stand on their own.

CM: And now I'm going to turn the tables and ask you which of your stories is your favorite? Which one is the most underrated? And lastly, given all things being equal, if I could only read one of your stories, which should it be?

DF: The first and third questions are easy. Austism. Hands down. Austin, the main character, is probably my favorite of all the characters I write about. I love the rest of the cast of that one,too. And I think the underlying message in it is important. As for your second question, that's much tougher since I have had some pretty good feedback on all of my work. I don't know that any of it is underrated. There are some that haven't gotten any attention yet and I guess that's kind of like being underrated, so I'll pick one of those. Since the Noah City stories are, I think, my best published work, I'll pick George Stew as the most underrated. As far as I know my wife is the only one who has read it and she bawled her eyes out at the end. So, yes, it's one of those stories.

CM: Thank you for lending me your time, Dwayne.
Hopefully this wasn't too painful.

DF: No, it was actually fun and an honor. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity!

As I mentioned above, Dwayne is a prolific author of dozens of stories. I've personally likened his work to "Jean Shepard meets South Park" and "If Kurt Vonnegut wrote a Twilight Zone episode." Visit his Amazon author page and check them out. Standalone tales are just a buck and all of his works are free to read with Kindle Unlimited. Need more convincing? Click here for an excerpt from Happy Clown Burger Volume 4!